Pulse+IT Blog

Recurrent case of mushroom syndrome

In what is an unusually quiet period for the normally super-active eHealth sector, our top story this week turned out to be the fortnight-old news that the draft of the long-promised national digital health strategy would be on the agenda of the COAG Health Council when it meets next month.

We first heard about this on July 4, although to be honest it's not a secret. Having been delayed repeatedly since 2013 and rewritten a couple of times, the strategy was next scheduled for November 2016 but was delayed yet again until the newly appointed Australian Digital Health Agency CEO could put his mark on it.

Pondering professional trust and patient privacy

One of the most popular stories this week on Pulse+IT was our article on Queensland's move to allow GPs to take a look at their patient's hospital medical record through a new portal that links to Queensland Health's The Viewer, the web-based application that lets QH clinicians see patient data from different clinical systems and different hospitals throughout the state.

The Queensland government had to write new legislation last year to get the system up and running, and from what we hear, it is going to be a very popular move. There are strict privacy and registration procedures that GPs have to go through, including lots of hoops to prove their identity before they are allowed to register, but in the wake of last week's revelation that it may be the HPOS system at fault for the Medicare number leak, that's probably not a bad thing.

Medicare breach response doesn't cut the mustard

The slightly delayed Digital Hospitals Handbook and news that Telstra Health had been granted access to the My Health Record system for its HealthNow app may have been the most popular stories on Pulse+IT this week, but out in the wider health and IT communities one story dominated, and that was the Guardian newspaper's discovery that Medicare numbers were for sale in the darker recesses of the internet.

Guardian journalist Paul Farrell was able to buy his own number for the price of a few bitcoins from a cheery-sounding vendor on the dark web, and his resulting story made waves around the country on Tuesday. It doesn't appear that everyone's numbers have been released but Mr Farrell's investigations show that the vendor had made a few tidy sales, numbering about 75 all up.

Has the worm turned for hospital EMRs?

Coming hot on the heels of our poll from last week that asked whether the very large sums being spent on digitising our hospitals were justified – close to 60 per cent of you said yes – came the news late last week that InterSystems had snaffled the huge contract to roll out its technology for the Northern Territory's public health system.

We always had our money on InterSystems, a relative quiet achiever that has seen real progress with its TrakCare suite, which it markets outside of the US. Trak has had a few other high-profile wins in our part of the world, including for the new hospital at Bendigo and the replacement of a number of best-of-breed systems at Macquarie University Hospital in Sydney a couple of years ago, but this implementation will be watched more keenly than most.

Age-old problem of lack of interoperability

In a week in which many of we colonials took a day off to celebrate the birthday of an elderly but still very chipper lady in England – excluding New Zealand, which took it last week; WA, which has to wait until September; and Queensland, of course, which holds it in October, while the lady in question was born in April – it was good to see a new report being launched with much fanfare at Parliament House offering up a roadmap for how technology should be deployed to help support older people to remain independent for as long as possible.

The report was a very worthy one but to be honest, we have seen these things before. There was the 2012 Pathfinder project, which investigated what would be required to connect the aged care industry to the PCEHR, and which sank without a trace, and after that there was the 2014 Digital Care Services IT blueprint, co-written by Accenture, which also fell into a hole and never came out again.

Budgets go big in eHealth bonanza

We must admit to being momentarily gobsmacked when we received a joint press release from the NSW Treasurer and Minister for Health last Saturday proclaiming that the state was spending $536 million on eHealth over the next eight years, with a portion of the money starting to flow this year. We double-checked the figures on Monday morning just to be sure there was no double counting, but right it was.

When added to the approximately $400 million shelled out by the Coalition since 2011, we're looking at close to a billion dollars, and that's just from the current government. Granted, that money is spread over 16 years, but it's still a massive number, even among the eye-popping overall annual budget for NSW Health of $23 billion.

Déjà vu all over again

Remember 2012? No, neither do I, but this time five years ago the biggest deal in eHealth was the imminent launch of a fab new national IT project that heralded the dawn of a new age in healthcare. This system would link health professionals together, improve the flow of information throughout the entire health system, save the government eleventy billion dollars in needlessly duplicated lab tests, and better yet, allow patients to see their own health information for the very first time.

And it was just four years ago that the minister for health at the time, Tanya Plibersek, fronted up at the HIC conference and announced a massive $8 million grant to NEHTA to get pathology and diagnostic imaging onto the system. This was greeted as big news by Pulse+IT and by everyone else. Test results were going to be the deal breaker, the game changer, the thing that would put the PC in the PCEHR.

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